In an attempt to battle “noodle harassment”, a Japanese company created a smart fork that can cancel out a user’s noodle-slurping noises.
Any ramen connoisseur will tell you that proper Japanese ramen etiquette entails slurping your noodles while you eat them, as doing so allows for aeration and full flavor development. This practice, however, can be
disturbing for Westerners and is officially referred to as “noodle harassment”, or “noo-hara” in Japan. The Japanese, however, have no intention of giving up this much loved cultural practice, and so an impasse has been reached. Enter Nissin, the 69-year-old Japanese company that invented instant noodles, and their revolutionary, albeit cumbersome, slurp canceling gadget the Otohiko fork.
Nissin explains the apparent need for Otohiko in their press release: “As we approach 2020, the number of visitors to Japan is rapidly growing as we draw even more global attention than before. At the same time, friction is caused by differences in culture and values with regards to slurping one’s noodles to enjoy them. We developed Otohiko to reduce this friction.”
Otohiko’s functioning principle is simple; through extensive sound sampling and analysis, Nissin developed a highly sensitive microphone that picks up on the slightest slurping noise. As soon as the slurp is detected a signal is forwarded to an application on your smartphone that triggers a slurp neutralizing sound. It can be a simple “WOOOSH” sound or something like xylophone, but the idea is to make the noodle-slurping sound inaudible to other people.
Believe it or not, the technology behind this smart fork was inspired by toilets, more specifically TOTO’s Otohime (“sound princess”) toilets in which a sound is generated to cancel out those offensively audible digestive processes that plague us all. Now Nissin has brought that technology back to the source (your mouth) with Otohiko!
For a mere 14,800 JPY ($130 USD), noodle loving Japanese can help bridge the cultural gap and ensure that their relationships with foreigners aren’t affected by their eating ahabits. Nissin has launched a crowdfunding campaign for the Otohiko on their website and will start shipping out its smart noise-canceling forks early next year, if it receives at least 5,000 pre-orders. You can put in your order until December 15, 2017.